Alaska is amazing. We returned on Monday despite a North Texas ice storm that should have delayed our 5:30 am arrival or at least kept us at the airport. But somehow we made it back safely and school was cancelled for both Jared and I, allowing us the day to catch up on our sleep. And our sleep was very very off after not only the three hour time difference but many late nights awaiting Kristin’s arrival at remote checkpoints where no hotels existed and we either slept in Andy’s truck or, when accommodations were available, on gymnasium floors where you could stretch out and enjoy the comfort of consistent heat.
I already knew Alaska was a wild and beautiful part of the country, so much of it blissfully untouched by industry and technology. But Alaska in the winter takes on a life of it’s own. By daylight the sun reflects a crystallized, white, tundra, checkered by mountains that extend as far as you can see. By night, albeit not every night as we came to find out, the sky is a dark canvas for the dynamic Aurora Borealis. I have seen pictures and always wanted to see the northern lights, but no camera can do it justice. I tried to take photos first with my Iphone and next with my Cannon PowerShot SX510HS, but only really high quality cameras can even capture a bit of it’s wonder (this shot is borrow from Whitney McLauren, a free-lancer following the Yukon Quest). Even this shot cannot illustrate how playful the Northern Lights really are; constantly moving like a heartbeat on monitor or an artist swirling their brush, I was truly awestruck.
On my solo trip to Fairbanks on Valentine’s day, I was finishing up with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild– a vibrant telling of one woman’s journey to heal and find herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington State. As I flew right past Mt. Rainier on my way into Seattle I could picture every anguished and magnificent step and each breathtaking view. The novel felt so apropos that even though I have finished and am back in Texas, I have kept it on my nightstand and find myself constantly going back to the pages I dogeared. One of the most striking pages is actually a borrowed quote at the start of part 5- “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver- “The Summer Day” pp. 235). This trip felt like a good start.
Although plans for life don’t hold the same charm they once did for me, I do like living with themes. And both wild and precious seem appropriate to how I want to live.
I am so proud of Kristin and Andy and their dogs at Hey Moose Kennel. I am so honored that Jared and I got to be there to see them run and complete this incredible race.
I am also so happy that we have decided to go TINY so that we had the opportunity to be there.
- 2/14- Dallas to Seattle and Seattle to Fairbanks, where Tim and Kat picked me up at the airport.
- 2/15- Fairbanks to Circle with Jared and Andy
- 2/16- Kristin and her dog team arrive in Circle close to midnight- this is the first checkpoint in Alaska that is accessible by road. Dawson City in Yukon, Canada was the last place Kristin saw family and her handlers.
- 2/17- Circle to Central where Kristin has another late night arrival under the glorious Northern Lights.
- 2/18- Central to Mile 101 and Kristin and her team have to go over Eagle Summit, one of the steepest mountains and scariest parts of the trail.
- 2/19- Mile 101 to Two Rivers- the last check point before the finish line, but a long drive for us and Kristin and her team have to go over Rosebud Summit which turns out to be worse than Eagle because of the trail conditions. She arrives at Two Rivers early in the morning and takes off for the last run to the finish line. She crosses the finish line shortly before 10pm and we are all there to cheer her on!!
- 2/20- Rest and Recovery in Fairbanks plus meet the mushers that evening.
- 2/21- The Yukon Quest Banquet when Kristin receives her Finishers Patch!
- 2/22- Family Brunch and take the red eye out from Fairbanks, back to Seattle and eventually back to DFW at 5:30 am on 5/23.
Now I am so excited to start planning my next adventure to South Africa at the end of April to see my beautiful College Roommate, Amanda, get married. It finally feels like I am seeing and doing rather than just talking and imagining, although my imagination too is running wild after this trip.